This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

God's Beautiful, Imperfect Church

  • November 2020 Issue
Practical Theology

The book of Acts provides a snapshot of what life was really like in the early church. According to Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Luke describes what might sound like a utopian community. They shared their possessions. Their meetings were characterized by gladness and sincerity. No wonder many people think the church today should go back to its New Testament roots!

Yet we should not ignore the imperfections. In the book of Acts, we see the real-world flaws of this remarkable community. We discover that some of its members were hypocrites (5:1–2). We witness the church’s first significant organizational change when some of its older members were being neglected, possibly due to cultural prejudice (6:1). And we see the church’s reluctance to accept the newly converted Paul because of his former life (9:26). Its members displayed human weakness and a full range of emotions. Some were upset after they heard Peter had met and dined with Gentiles (11:2–3). Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement so sharp that they went their separate ways (15:39). Some needed further doctrinal instruction (18:25–26). And Paul warned that some of them would become false teachers (20:30).

If you need more evidence of the early church’s imperfections, all you have to do is read the New Testament. But a day is coming when the church will be presented to Christ “without stain or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27). Until that day, God calls us to worship and serve together with His beautiful, imperfect church. Paul advises, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

Instead of searching for the perfect church, we should find one that values God’s Word and proclaims the gospel. If the church practices “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Such a church is built upon the truth.

For Further Study

To learn more, read Church by A. W. Tozer (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

Find Practical Theology by Month